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A NIGHT AT THE ROXBURY

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Will Ferrell, Chris Kattan, Dan Hedaya, Molly Shannon, Richard Grieco
Director: John Fortenberry
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: See Review
Length: 81 Minutes
Release Date: August 28, 2007

“Is that a mirror in your pocket?”

“What?”

“Cause I can see myself in your pants.”

Film **

It’s funny how over the course of time, an opinion of a certain movie will change. Sometimes I gain more appreciation for certain movies that I couldn’t appreciate the first time around, while other times I seem to not find a movie great or appealing as I once did. A Night at the Roxbury falls under the latter category

I missed it in its theatrical run (though I remember it was one of the worst reviewed movies of 1998), but caught it on DVD. I found myself laughing quite frequently at the movie, even though in the back of my mind I was aware that a plot was non-existent. This was the case with many of the movies based on Saturday Night Live skits.

In this case, though, the skit that was the basis for the movie was one of the show’s funniest and most popular at that time. Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan played two overly dressed club hoppers who specialized in ridiculous dances in attempts to woo women. All the while, the upbeat dance hit by Haddaway, “What is Love?”, plays in the background for the two guys to consistently bop their head to.

The skit was so popular that even guests hosts were getting in on the fun. I remember seeing the likes of Jim Carrey, Sylvester Stallone and Tom Hanks dancing along with Ferrell and Kattan, and each occasion was very funny. Even Jack Nicholson made a surprise appearance during a skit, and to see old Jack bop his head to “What is Love?” was pretty memorable to say the least.

Yes, it’s very funny as a five to ten minute sketch on a comedy variety show. However, a 90-minute movie is a whole different situation. Nonetheless, the sketch was extended to such a running time and thus became A Night at the Roxbury.

With the movie, it’s now made clear that Ferrell and Kattan’s characters are brothers, Steve and Doug Butabi. The movie opens with something completely similar to what you would see on the SNL skit. The two hit a club, dance awfully around a girl and are unsuccessful at scoring a date.

Then the plot kicks in, and it’s as paper-thin as you’d expect it. Steve and Doug are losers who have one big dream; to own their very own nightclub (what else?). Actually, they have another big dream; to one night be able to get into a nightclub called The Roxbury, which is extremely hard to get in if you aren’t on the list.

The brothers consistently annoy the living hell out of their strict father (Dan Hedaya), who has them work a day job at his plant store. The father never wants to hear anything about their nightclub fantasies. However, for some inexplicable reason the father favors Steve over Doug, and tries to set his favorite son up with a potential girlfriend (Molly Shannon), whom he can’t stand.

Now I sound as if I’m on the verge of slamming the movie just as all the critics did, but truth be told there are some parts of A Night at the Roxbury that I still find funny (sue me). I still get a kick out of the part where the two finally get into The Roxbury courtesy of 21 Jump Street has-been Richard Grieco, only because of a fender-bender and Grieco doesn’t want a lawsuit. One of the funniest lines in the movie is when Doug, once inside the club, asks Grieco right on the spot, “So, is Johnny Depp meeting you here, or what?” Grieco’s response is in a word, priceless.

Another joy is seeing Chazz Palminteri pop up in a surprise extended cameo (I guess I’m phrasing that right) as the owner of The Roxbury who takes a liking to the Butabi brothers. Chazz, up until this point and as far I could tell, had not done any comedy prior to this movie and was always playing the intimidating tough guy. To see him having a ball with the role and going to great lengths to look ridiculous is quite a joy. Even his repeating gag, where he keeps asking people around him if they grabbed his ass, never gets old.

So, yes, I still have a certain bit of appreciation for the movie as you can tell, but in the end I think it’s safe to say that A Night at the Roxbury just doesn’t add up to much. Another factor to consider is the notion that Will Ferrell, who at this point had not become the huge comedy star that he is now, has gone on to make better and way funnier movies. When compared to such hilarious comedies as Anchorman and Blades of Glory, Roxbury more than pales in comparison.

It still has its moments, but as it turns out A Night at the Roxbury didn’t stand the test of time with me. There are a few chuckles to be had with the movie, but you can’t help but acknowledge how truly paper thin the story is. In the end, this demonstrates that not all SNL-inspired movies can be at the level of The Blues Brothers or Wayne’s World.

Video ***

As far as improvements are concerned, I will give this re-issue from Paramount a great deal of credit, as the image has gone from non-anamorphic to fully anamorphic widescreen. Being a simple comedy, the movie isn’t built on spectacularly strong visuals. However, for what it is, the picture quality is clear and crisp enough to satisfy.

Audio ***1/2

There’s a great deal of energetic music being played throughout the movie, elevating the 5.1 mix to higher credit than a dialogue oriented comedy would normally receive. The music on the soundtrack, especially when played in scenes set inside nightclubs, comes off very strongly. Dialogue delivery is also well handled.

Features **1/2

Though considered a Special Collector’s Edition release, the features are indeed an improvement over the original DVD release, while at the same time nothing to write home about. Featured on the disc are four featurettes; “Score! Reliving A Night at the Roxbury”, “Roxbury Rags: Costume & Fashion Guide”, “Do That Dance!” and “Making The List”.

Summary:

Very rarely do I change my overall opinion of a movie, but A Night at the Roxbury is one of my few exceptions in that matter. I still find parts of it funny, but as a whole, it just doesn’t qualify as pure comedy gold, especially when compared to recent movie comedy gold.

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